The Top Team
Clutching a 3-2 victory in Match 41 against Oita Trinita, Omiya Ardija was crowned the 2015 J2 champion and made an astonishing come-back to J1 in just one year. Before the match kicked off, Omiya was informed that runner-up Jubilo Iwata drew, which meant that a win would assure them the championship title. Omiya overturned a two-goal lead by Oita with two goals from FW Dragan Mrdja and a PK goal from MF Akihiro Ienaga, and the crowd at NACK5 Stadium Omiya exulted over the long-awaited result of their home team. Omiya went on to win the last match of the season 2-1 against Zweigen Kanazawa, wrapping up the season with 26 wins, 8 losses, and 8 ties. On November 27, an announcement was made that Head Coach Hiroki Shibuya renewed his contract and would be leading the team again next season. Akira Ito, who served as the youth head coach and led the young team to the premier league, was appointed coach of Omiya’s top team. Also promoted from the youth team are: U-18 national team goalie, Yuki Kato; former U-16 national team member, FW Kento Kawata; a regular on the national team since the U-15 age group, MF Atsushi Kurokawa; and FW Takumu Fujinuma. Having four players promoted to the top team at once is unprecedented.
2015 was the first season that Omiya’s youth team participated in the Prince Takamado Trophy All Japan Youth (U-18) Premier Football League EAST. After a 3-1 win over JFA Academy Fukushima in their final match, Omiya finished the debut season in third place. After Match 13, Omiya was leading the league as the only team without a single loss with 8 wins and 5 ties. However, they couldn’t hold on long enough and lost the next two matches, Match 14 against Shimizu S-Pulse Youth and Match 15 against Aomori Yamada High School. In fact, they didn’t see victory for four matches but managed to close the season with a win. Youth team GK Yuki Kato was selected to the training camp organized for prospective members of the U-18 national team that is aiming for a place in the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017. Kato was also added as a member that went on the U-18 Japan National Team England trip.
The Omiya junior youth team advanced to the semifinal of the 25th Saitama Club Youth U-15 Championship, losing 1-2 to Grande Football Club. They went on to win the match for 3rd/4th place against Bunan Junior Football Club and finished in third place.
Meanwhile, DF Kazuma Takayama and MF Masato Kojima of the top team paid a visit to the Omiya Ardija Soccer School Omiya Branch on December 4. Takayama graduated from the soccer school, joined the Academy, and went on to play for the top team. Kojima was also a member of the Academy from the junior level. The two dropped in at the Horisaki Park Soccer Ground and introduced themselves to the members of the Soccer School’s Omiya Branch. They then took part in each age group training and played football with kids from kindergarten to 5th/6th graders. The children couldn’t contain their excitement as they got to play alongside professional footballers from Omiya’s top team. After the training, they all took a group photo together and the soccer school members received an autograph from Takayama and Kojima. A Q&A session was also organized, and the two pros responded to the children’s questions with a big smile, reinforcing the ties with the local kids.
On December 2, the club’s president, Shigeru Suzuki, was accompanied by head coach Hiroki Shibuya and Nobuhiro Kato on a courtesy visit to Saitama Governor Kiyoshi Ueda and the Saitama Prefectural Assembly to report the club’s results and accomplishments in the 2015 season. The following day, President Suzuki, Head Coach Shibuya, and the top team captain, Kosuke Kikuchi, paid a visit to Saitama Mayor Hayato Shimizu and the Saitama City Assembly. In addition, a courtesy call to the various ward mayors in Saitama City was made by Akihiro Ienaga (Nishi Ward), by Takamitsu Tomiyama (Kita Ward), by Daigo Watanabe (Omiya Ward), by Shin Kanazawa (Minuma Ward), and by Ryuji Bando (Iwatsuki Ward) to report the winning of the J2 2015 season and the return to J1 in 2016, and to thank the community for the cooperation towards the club’s promotional activities and collaborative efforts.
The “Omiya Ardija Soccer School in Laos and Cambodia” took place in November. The school was organized in Laos from the 12th to the 14th and in Cambodia from the 15th to the 19th. With a total of 539 children and coaches participating, the club enhanced its friendship with the people in the two countries through football.
On November 22, Omiya Ardija signed a partnership agreement with the Singapore Sports School for the purpose of supporting football development. Omiya first played against Singapore in a U-15 match in 2010 and has been deepening its relationship with the Singapore Sports School ever since. The two organizations will (1) promote an exchange program among players in the developing age group, (2) promote interaction between the developing age group teams, (3) promote interaction between coaches of the developing age group teams and share know-how and experience, (4) have the Singapore Sports School offer advice and support to Omiya Ardija’s development and promotional efforts in Singapore, and (5) have Omiya Ardija’s coaches provide advice to the Singapore Sports School about training programs. After the signing ceremony, the representatives of the two organizations watched Omiya play Kanazawa in Match 42. Furthermore, Omiya welcomed the Singapore Sports School’s U-15 team to Japan from November 27 to December 7.